Jennifer Tilly’s ‘Marilyn Voice’

Actress Jennifer Tilly, best-known for her recurring role in the Child’s Play movies, was Oscar-nominated for Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway (1994), has guest-starred in TV sitcoms Cheers and Frasier, and is a professional poker player. In an interview with Closer Weekly, she talks about her distinctive voice, similar to Marilyn’s breathy tone in films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot (although Jennifer’s is pitchier, like Judy Holliday’s in Born Yesterday.)

The ‘baby voice’ or ‘ditz voice’ Marilyn developed helped to conceal her occasional stutter, and many close to her, like director John Huston, noticed that her natural voice was quite different. If you listen carefully to her delivery in other films, you’ll hear subtle variations on those familiar girlish tones. Learn more about Marilyn’s voice here.

“You have a distinctive voice. Would you say it was more a help or a hindrance?

When I started, I was doing this breathy Marilyn Monroe, little girl thing, but it was sort of a trick voice. It was a weird crutch, like I couldn’t act without it. And when I did [1994’s] The Getaway, the director cleared the set and said, ‘I want you to talk in your normal voice.’ And I said, ‘I literally cannot.’ He’s like, ‘Of course you can — that voice you were talking in before you started acting.’ And I said, ‘All the attributes I plug into the characters, this is the voice that comes out, I can’t force it.’ But now I have more of a husky, wispy voice, a lot lower. It’s a good voice for cartoons. I play Bonnie on Family Guy, and a [2020] series based on Monsters, Inc., [Disney+’s] Monsters at Work, so I’m doing a lot of that voice now.”